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I have people ask me from time to time what is a good way to get closer to nature. Two words: bird watching.

It is easier than you think. As easy as putting a bird feeder in your own yard or window. Also a bird bath -- you don't need to spend a lot of money, any shallow pan filled with water will work as long as it isn't any deeper than 2 inches.

For more advanced outing you can stay local. Whether you're urban or rural there'll be so much more birdlife close by than you think. Get a field guide to your country and a pair of binoculars that suits your budget and then get out there. Watch out for habits of common birds as well as just trying to tick them off a list. Some of the best bird watching can be watching a new behaviour of a species you've seen a thousand times before.

Contact your local nature center or Parks dept. and ask them if they have birding walks in your local parks. Often, especially during migration season, local bird experts will host birding walks in birding "hot spots" in your area. These are usually free and open to the public. Contact your state's ornithological society and find out if they are hosting bird walks in your area. They will either be volunteers or experts - both happy to help. This is the best way to learn about birds. And it is fun to walk with someone who can teach you about what you are seeing and hearing.

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Identifying Birds

If at all possible, you should invest in a pair of binoculars. You don't need expensive ones to start, but out in the field so many birds will be too far away to see clearly without binoculars. I keep my binoculars and a bird book next to the window.

That's why back yard birding is fun, watching birds at your feeders--you don't need binoculars!

I also use the Merlin bird ID app to identify birds, in addition to the book. So much fun of birding is learning bird songs. What I like to do is record unfamiliar bird songs on my phone, then try to match the bird song.

  1. Where did you see the bird? Habitat:
    • Forest
    • Shoreline
    • Open field
  2. What was the bird doing? Behavior:
    • Soaring overhead
    • Hopping around the treetops
    • Scratching around the ground
  3. Size & Shape?
    • Get started by using comparisons to birds you know to fit it into size ranges.
  4. Markings (Note all markings that stand out, like stripes or bright colored areas or spots?
    • Predominant color
    • Secondary colors